BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian
countries will invite a non-political representative from
Myanmar to a regional summit this month, delivering an
unprecedented snub to the military leader who led a coup against
an elected civilian government in February.
The decision taken by foreign ministers from the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at an emergency meeting on
Friday night was an unusually bold step for the consensus-driven
bloc, which traditionally favours a policy of engagement and
Brunei, ASEAN's current chair, issued a statement citing a
lack of progress made on a roadmap that the junta had agreed to
with ASEAN in April to restore peace in Myanmar.
Singapore's foreign ministry said on Saturday the move to
exclude junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was a "difficult, but
necessary, decision to uphold ASEANs credibility".
A spokesman for Myanmar's military government blamed
"foreign intervention" for the decision.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told the BBC Burmese news
service that the United States and representatives of the
European Union had pressured other ASEAN member states.
"The foreign interventions can also be seen here," he said.
"We learned that some envoys from some countries met with U.S.
foreign affairs and received pressure from EU."
An official junta statement on Sunday morning said ASEAN's
decision went against its longtime central principle of
"Myanmar is extremely disappointed and strongly objected the
outcomes of the Emergency Foreign Ministers Meeting as the
discussions and decision on Myanmars representation issue was
done without consensus and was against the objectives of the
ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter and its principles," it said.
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar
security forces with thousands of others arrested, according to
the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests
which has derailed the country's tentative democracy and
prompted international condemnation.
The junta says those estimates of the death toll are
ASEAN chair Brunei said a non-political figure from Myanmar
would be invited to the Oct. 26-28 summit, after no consensus
was reached for a political representative to attend.
"As there had been insufficient progress... as well as
concerns over Myanmars commitment, in particular on
establishing constructive dialogue among all concerned parties,
some ASEAN Member States recommended that ASEAN give space to
Myanmar to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy,"
Brunei said in a statement.
It did not mention Min Aung Hlaing or name who would be
invited in his stead.
Brunei said some member states had received requests from
Myanmar's National Unity Government, formed by opponents of the
junta, to attend the summit.
ASEAN has faced increasing international pressure to take a
tougher stand against Myanmar, having been criticised in the
past for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of
rights abuses, subverting democracy and intimidating political
A U.S. State Department official told reporters on Friday
that it was "perfectly appropriate and in fact completely
justified" for ASEAN to downgrade Myanmar's participation at the
Singapore in its statement urged Myanmar to cooperate with
ASEAN's envoy, Brunei's second foreign affairs minister Erywan
Erywan has delayed a long-planned visit to the country in
recent weeks and has asked to meet all parties in Myanmar,
including deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained in
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said this week Erywan would be
welcome in Myanmar, but would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi
because she is charged with crimes.
Malaysia's foreign minister said it would be up to the
Myanmar junta to decide on an alternate representative to the
"We never thought of removing Myanmar from ASEAN, we believe
Myanmar has the same rights (as us)," foreign minister Saifuddin
Abdullah told reporters according to Bernama state news agency.
"But the junta has not cooperated, so ASEAN must be strong
in defending its credibility and integrity," he added.
(Reporting by Ain Bandial; Additional reporting by Aradhana
Aravindan in Singapore and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by
Rozanna Latiff; Editing by William Mallard, Simon Cameron-Moore,
Mike Harrison and Christina Fincher)